As a woman, I know that a lot of the time we want to get stronger but are scared of lifting weights out of pure fear of turning into the Hulk or Arnie overnight. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that is not how things work!
The only way a female will "bulk up" to hulk-like levels are if:
1. You take steriods. We have no where near enough natural Testosterone to become "massive". Therefore, most of us will have nothing to worry about if your goal isn't to turn into the hulk.
So how do you get stronger without bulking up?
1. Start lifting.
If you're new to lifting, congratulations! You will likely see the most strength gains than anyone else! Most "newbies" will find they will develop strength gains quite quickly during the first 6-12 months or so of training. This is said to be mostly due to neural adaptations, where your body is not used to the stimulus (exercise) you are throwing at it. It therefore responds quickly, learns to adapt and viola, you become stronger!
2. Eat at maintenance calories whilst lifting weights.
Eat according to your goals. If you want to become stronger, I would recommend eating at maintenance calories (or even in a slight surplus). In doing so, you will be helping your body to build muscle through sufficient calorie consumption and weight lifting. You can't expect to become stronger if you are eating in a major calorie deficit. I would focus on getting enough protein in your diet, a recommended 0.8-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight. You can also add a little HIIT to your routine if you want to burn off unwanted fat.
3. Practice and progress
I can't stress this enough. Want to get stronger at pushups, squats, deadlifts etc? Then practice, practice, practice whilst trying to progress. One way of progressing through an exercise is, for example, by picking a certain weight you can do 8 reps with. Then focus on trying to get 10 reps the next week or two, then 12 reps etc with the same weight. Increase the weight once you can comfortably smash out 12-15 reps.
4. Train in a low rep range
By training with "heavy" weights within the 1-5 rep range, strength gains will occur primarily through neural adaptations. Training within a low rep range will also mean your muscles will not be exposed to enough volume to bulk up. However, I would not recommend training at low rep ranges for new lifters without first mastering form and all movement patterns. Keep your ego at the door for this one.
5. Plyometrics and body weight training
Ever seen a gymnast who isn't strong? I didn't think so. Another way to build strength, without "bulking up" is through plyometrics and body weight training. Incorporating this type of training can also help torch unwanted bodyfat, therefore resulting in a leaner, stronger, physique.
At the end of the day, it's all about trial and error. Find what works for you, what you enjoy and what you can stick to. Ladies, don't be afraid to lift "heavy", be strong and embrace your true potential. #thickthighsavelives
Comment below if you have questions about anything strength training!
Website update April 2018